Essential Passing Tips and Drills To Beat Zone Defenses

With Rutgers head men’s basketball coach Mike Rice as your guide, pick up two helpful passing drills to prepare for zone defenses this season. The following drills can improve overall decision-making, passing technique, player confidence, and moving without the ball. Also, Coach Rice details an effective baseline out-of-bounds play designed to beat zone defenses under the basket. 

Passing Out of a Double Team

Zone defenses rely heavily on trapping and double teams in order to be effective. This first passing drill will teach your offensive players to be strong with the ball and make accurate passes when double teamed.

Start with a ball handler up top. Have them dribble as hard as they can inside the arc. Meanwhile, two defenders will set up on the elbows and then close in for the double team. Now the offensive player has three options (three players to pass to), two on wings and one down low. This player must pass out of the double team without turning it over. Don’t let the defenders deflect the ball.

Drill Tips: Remember, players can ball fake, fake high throw low, and step through to get out of the trap. Remind them of all of their options. Be strong with the ball. Don’t pass until the coach tells you to.

Also, you can practice this in a 1-3-1 zone defense set up where the wing and top players meet to double the ball.


Post Passing Drills

This is a terrific drill to run with your bigs. It’s great for improving footwork and making passing instinctive out there.

Start with an outside pivot. When players get the ball, have them pivot, and then pass to a teammate. Get players to chase the ball. Players will receive it right back, pivot properly, and then pass to another teammate. Repeat. Be sure that players are really moving around the lane. Start in the high post, move to mid-post, and flash.

Now go with an inside pivot. Have players look down the floor. Give a pass fake to practice this concept. Then pass opposite.


Bonus: Baseline Out of Bounds

Coach Rice is a big fan of this baseline out of bounds, especially against a 2-3 zone. This play really teaches your players how to read the defense. It also gives you four or five options out of one set.

Get players 2 through 5 in a stack, but have the first two separated a little bit from the back two. Have all players lined up on the ballside laneline. The first player in the stack breaks hard to the ballside corner. The second player breaks to the opposite low block and screens that nearest defender. The back two players will now attack the middle man in the defense, creating a 2-on-1 scenario.

Have the unit play things out from here, read the defense, and find ways to create mismatches in order to get high-percentage looks at the basket.


The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Drills and Concepts for Zone Offense Attacks” with Mike Rice. To check out our entire catalog of DVDs focusing on zone concepts, click here

Leave a Reply


WP-SpamFree by Pole Position Marketing